Annapurna Mata Temple:
The temple of Annapurna at Kashi is right next to the Vishwanath temple. This temple is attached to the Annapurna Mutt. A highlight of this temple is that every year, the day before Diwali, a golden idol of Annapurna is opened for darshan. This idol can be seen only on that one day, and it is indeed a great sight! Annapurna sits in the middle with her trademark bowl and ladle. On her left is Lakshmi (Sridevi- the goddess of wealth) and on her right is Bhudevi (the goddess of the earth). All these idols are of pure Gold, and are beautiful to look at. In front of them stands Shiva, made of silver, asking for alms. I was fortunate enough to visit Kashi during Diwali when I was a child, and the image of the Golden Annapurna is etched on my mind. It is a great wish of mine to go back once more and feast my eyes on that wonderful sight, but that is in Her hands alone!
In the sanctum of the temple, the idol of the goddess is a small one, which is always decorated in a sari when open for darshan. A silver mask covers her face, and little else can be seen. All the idols of Annapurna available show her in a sitting position, and we naturally assumed that that was how she was in this temple. However, we were in for a pleasant surprise. We had arranged for Abhishekam at the temple, and were allowed into the sanctum to perform the Abhishekam ourselves. It was then that we realized that the idol of Annapurna is made of black stone, quite small, and she is in the standing position. The image is simple, holding only the bowl and ladle, with practically no decorations at all. But goodness, she is so beautiful! The smile on her face is so charming, so real, it almost seems She is standing in front of us!
For the information of devotees who would like to perform the Abhishekam, tickets are available at the temple office for Rs.750/-. This amount is subject to change, and it would be better if one made enquiries at the temple office. The mutt and the local priests there have come to some sort of an arrangement where the Guruji of the mutt performs the puja on certain days and on certain days, the puja is performed by the local priests. There is a board put up outside the main sanctum informing people about who is performing the puja that day. The day the mutt is in charge, it is a simple matter to pay money at the office and arrange for the Abhishekam. On the other days, the amount is subject to the number of people wanting to perform the Abhishekam and the amount they are willing to pay! Please check details in advance so that you can be prepared. The Abhishekam is performed at 10:30AM every morning, but there again, there is an inevitable delay, so be patient, and you will be rewarded. It is worth a wait!
Another specialty of this temple is that food is served to all devotees….food is too simple a term for what is virtually a feast. Free coupons are available at the temple office and the food is served in a hall behind the temple. It is believed that the goddess takes her food only after making sure that all her devotees have had their fill. Try to partake of this Prasad at least once during your stay in Kashi. It is also a tradition to perform some service before taking food here. So many devotees take their turn in serving a few devotees before starting to eat. This was a wonderful experience in itself, and a practice that must be encouraged.